Western Center senior attorney Lorraine Lopez was on KPFA Radio in the Bay Area to discuss the lawsuit Western Center and our partners filed on behalf of tenant groups, accusing California’s Department of Housing and Community Development of discrimination and denying Californians due process in applications for the state’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP).
Listen Here (Interview starts at one hour 34 minute mark)
Western Center senior attorney Madeline Howard was on KPFA Radio in the Bay Area to discuss the lawsuit Western Center and our partners filed on behalf of tenant groups, accusing California’s Department of Housing and Community Development of denying Californians due process in the application process for the state’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP). As of June 1, 2022, the department denied 31% of ERAP rental assistance applications without meaningful explanation or a transparent appeals process.
“The groups claim the program has denied funding to hundreds of thousands of tenants without specific reasons or adequate opportunities to appeal. HCD has also made it more challenging for non-English-speaking tenants to communicate with program officials, the lawsuit said. The groups are represented by the Western Center on Law & Poverty, Public Counsel, and Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles. They filed the lawsuit in Alameda County Superior Court.”
“California tenants rights groups have sued the state, claiming its process for denying emergency rental assistance isn’t fair. The lawsuit comes as pandemic-related eviction protections are set to expire at the end of the month.”
“Lorraine Lopez, from the Western Center on Law & Poverty, explains the situation. “So folks are now being left, pretty much being in the cold once the application closed,” Lopez said. Her group has filed a lawsuit on behalf of tenant rights advocates, saying the state is violating the law by not providing up to a full 18 months of rental assistance.”
“Madeline Howard, a senior attorney at the Western Center on Law and Poverty, said the dollar amount may be new, but Newsom’s overall plan isn’t — because state lawmakers already committed to paying those applicants. “It really doesn’t change the picture at all,” she said. “People are still going to be waiting many months for their application to be processed. And the state is not indicating that they’re going to change their policy of refusing to pay people any rent that accrued past March.”
“Madeline Howard, a senior staff attorney at Western Center on Law and Poverty, said that loophole in the law is “bad public policy,” because in many cases, local laws add protections not covered by the statewide law. “We’re blocking these local protections that would have helped people for a time period that is not covered at all or addressed at all by the state law,” she said. “So there’s this fundamental mismatch there.”
“Those eviction protections will only be applicable for folks who were able to get their applications in prior to March 31,” said Lorraine Lopez of the Western Center on Law & Poverty. Lopez is urging the state to also extend the renter assistance program beyond March 31. She says many prospective applicants have been unable to access the program.”
“Tina Rosales, housing attorney and lobbyist for the Western Center on Law and Poverty, said people who lost their income as a result of the pandemic should apply now.”
“It feels like a mixed bag,” said Tina Rosales, legislative advocate at the Western Center on Law and Poverty. “With our budget surplus, we thought that there would be an extension of the deadline to apply for (rent relief), and there wasn’t.”